Design in a Time of Uncertainty
By Rives Taylor, Principal, Global Resilience Research Lead
During the month of March, 2020, energy consumption varied across our region. Using electric power consumption data from CenterPoint, researchers observed where electricity flowed; which ZIP codes used more, and which ZIP codes used less. The data provided allowed a comparison between March 2019 and March 2020.
What immediately stands out is that a predominance of the percent change in electric power consumption occurred in the suburbs, including Katy, The Woodlands, Cypress, Pearland, and Kingwood areas. The data indicates that in the suburbs, the electric power consumption increased greater than 10%, with some suburban neighborhoods seeing a jump greater than 30%. Within the City of Houston there were only four ZIP codes that saw an increase greater than 10% (ranging from 11 to 14%). They include 77009 (Near Northside and The Heights); 77076 (Northside); 77016 (East Little York) and 77006 (Montrose).
There was significant decrease in power consumption in the ZIP codes within the City; 40% of ZIP Codes in CenterPoint’s territory saw a 10% or more decrease in power consumption. ZIP codes that saw significant decreases in power consumption were largely commercial and/or industrial zones or locations with smaller residential populations. ZIP codes with greater than 25% reduction include 77023 (Greater Eastwood and Lawndale; 77020 (Denver Harbor); 77054 (South Main/NRG); 77027 (The Galleria); 77091 (Acres Homes); 77032 (IAH); 77060 (Greenspoint); 77041 (Northwest Houston); 77042 (Westchase); and 770779 (Energy Corridor).
Those ZIP Codes with a greater than 50% decrease in power consumption include 77002 (Downtown); 77046 (Greenway/Upper Kirby); 77030 (Texas Medical Center); and 77012 (Harrisburg/Manchester).
Some general conclusions that may be drawn from this analysis could be:
- Workers left the major commercial centers, such as Downtown, the Energy Corridor, Greenway Plaza and The Galleria, to work in their suburban homes.
- The Texas Medical Center largely ceased most non-emergency services and educational activities in medical schools and academic activities in preparation of COVID-19 cases.
- The heavy industry sector shut down for a good portion of the month of March. This is particularly the case in far east Houston and the Ship Channel. The change in feedstock flows into the Ship Channel and surrounding refineries as indicated by the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Agency point to this conclusion, as well. (Gulf Coast (PADD 3) Weekly Supply)
We considered both median household income and race/ethnicity for each ZIP Code and did not find a strong correlation with change in power consumption. The strongest positive correlation (0.15), albeit weak, did point to higher power consumption in more affluent and higher residential population ZIP Codes. For majority Hispanic ZIP Codes there was a slight, positive correlation with power consumption (.0962).
Disclaimer: All power data was weather normalized to allow for better comparability between the March 2019 and March 2020. Also, due to the level of analysis, this is relatively noisy data, particularly when drawing some conclusion on electric power use impacts for residents in heavy industry/commercial ZIP codes.